Flavors are substances that impart tastes or aromas in foods and beverages. Individuals experience the sensation of taste when flavors in food and beverage products interact with taste receptors in the mouth. A taste receptor functions either by physically binding to a flavor ingredient in a process analogous to the way a key fits into a lock or by acting as a channel to allow ions to flow directly into a taste cell. As a result of these interactions, signals are sent to the brain where a specific taste sensation is registered. There are currently five recognized primary senses of taste: umami, which is the savory taste of glutamate, sweet, salt, bitter and sour.
Senomyx has discovered or in-licensed many of the key receptors that mediate taste in humans. We created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor. To enable faster discovery of new flavors, we integrated our assays into a robot-controlled automated system that uses plates containing an array of individual fluid wells, each of which can screen a different sample from our libraries of approximately 900,000 artificial and natural candidate ingredients isolated from plants and other sources. Our high-throughput discovery and development process allows us to conduct millions of analyses of new potential flavor ingredients annually. This efficiency is impossible to achieve using conventional flavor discovery methods. As a result, we have identified hundreds of unique potential new flavor ingredients that could not be discovered using taste tests alone.